I have been working diligently for the past week to get my new website up and running. I guess you can kind of say that I’ve used it as a coping mechanism to keep myself busy in light of the fact that my precious oldest son began kindergarten this week. I am now the proud parent of two children in elementary school. I was prepared for it. I had my box of tissues beside my bed, my black-out shades ready for the days of depression and locking myself in my room that I knew would come. But then I realized that I have a two- year-old still at home with me and time to do the things I have put off for a few years. Closets cleaned out…check. Old clothes and toys packed up in boxes and donated…check. House rearranged…done. Seminary application complete…wait, what?? Yes, one reason I haven’t sunk into the pit of identity confusion and depression that comes with each child that leaves home to begin a life of education is because I am beginning a season of life that has been coming for quite sometime. And I am so excited!
When I was in high school I was not what I would refer to as a “good christian girl.” I was a believer in Christ, I went to church occasionally and prayed when I felt guilty enough, but to say I was rebellious would be an understatement. Many of you reading this knew me in high school so I don’t really have to explain myself further for you(: One thing I did religiously (pun intended) was attend church camp every summer. My grandfather was (and is) an Assembly of God pastor and I would go to church camp with his church every year. Each time, I would “rededicate my life to Christ” and I would spend the week getting fired-up for Jesus. If you’ve ever attended an AG camp, you know there is no shortage of firing-up in Jesus name…that is where I get my love of worship and my inability to keep my hands down while singing in church. This fire for Christ would last all the way home…until the next weekend when I would get the call concerning the whereabouts of the party everyone was going to. My fire for Jesus was quickly replaced by my love of a good time. It was during my last trip to summer church camp that God decided to plant a tiny little seed. A seed I quickly buried under mounds of dirt in the form of shame, disgust, and denial…but a seed none the less.
I was sixteen years old, trapped in the tumultuous life of a very broken home and as lost, confused and insecure as a sixteen year old girl could be. I spent so much of my teenage life searching for an identity, for love and acceptance, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I never seemed to find it. I sat one hot summer evening under a large pavilion, heavy-hearted under the weight of my sin and brokenness. I was surrounded by kids my age who loved Jesus as much as I did, but who didn’t seem to be as far from Him as I was. That final night, the camp director stood on the stage after service was over and explained that some of us may be feeling a call on our lives. Many Pastors, Youth Leaders, Worship Pastors, Church Planters, Women’s Ministers, etc., receive a “call to ministry” at a young age, often as teens, but don’t really know how to respond to that call… or even decipher what the call is/means. This camp wanted to help those feeling a burden for ministry by offering them direction and mentoring. The camp director asked that anyone who felt a tug on their hearts or gnawing in their spirit to respond by coming to the front and speaking with a leader for prayer and counsel. I sat and looked around me as boys and girls my age were getting up one by one in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I felt my own heart grow heavier and heavier. I felt my hands shaking and my limbs go cold. I felt my pulse race and I couldn’t stop the tears from coming… I knew what God wanted me to do.
See, I come from a long line of church leadership. My father had served as a Pastor for a small Southern Baptist Church most of my childhood before my parents’ divorce. My mom grew up a preacher’s daughter and while married to my father served as Sunday School Director and Worship Leader. I began singing in church when I was seven years old and frequently worked with my Mom in leading worship. Almost every uncle I had was ordained for ministry. I felt as a young girl that a life of ministry was almost inevitable for me…until my parents’ split up. I watched as several men in leadership, including my father at the time, behaved one way in the Pulpit, and a very different way at home. I witnessed members of my grandfather’s church have expectations of him that were so unreasonable that my grandmother would be filled with anxiety about his inability to meet them. I watched as my mom felt alienated and alone much of the time. And once my mom and dad divorced and we were no longer the “preacher’s family,” I vowed I would never be in the ministry in any way.
So I sat on that wooden bench that hot Friday night and I gripped my seat until my knuckles were white. I quietly argued with God…”you don’t want me, I am a disgrace of a christian! Everyone knows that! I doubt some people even know I am a believer! I have seen too much hurt, I am not strong enough. I am not good enough. I don’t know enough.” The argument went on until the dismissal prayer. And I was free. I made it. Whew. I had no idea what that tiny seed would grow into someday.
Now I sit here today, after seventeen years of running away, making excuses, and being found and rescued by my Lord and Savior…and I am preparing to begin my first semester at Dallas Theological Seminary. I am here to tell you, this journey has been long and full of pit-stops, detours, and even train-wrecks… but I have never been more certain of this, when God calls me out I will never again stay seated on the bench. He has never given up on me and I am so thankful for His continued pursuit of me… I am so excited to have the honor of pursuing Him more and more.
What is He calling you to that you are avoiding, denying or making excuses to get out of? I assure you, He knows your imperfections, He knows your heart, and He knows the plans He has for you. I pray you will get off the bench and respond.